Aaron Howerton begins to cry during his resentencing on Tuesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Aaron Howerton begins to cry during his resentencing on Tuesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Sentenced to life as a teen, Monroe prisoner to be released

Aaron Howerton was among the first in the state to be resentenced under a state Supreme Court ruling on young defendants.

EVERETT — Sitting in court Tuesday with gray hair, Aaron Howerton apologized for what he did. His hands trembled due to abuse suffered as a child.

“I aided in the murder of a good person,” said Howerton, now 46. “I knowingly led my friend, Wilder Eby, to his death. I betrayed his friendship and his trust and the good person he will always be. I’m very sorry.”

The Monroe man was sentenced to life in prison without parole for murdering Eby in 1994, when Howerton was 18. Eby, of Mount Vernon, was 21. Following a recent state Supreme Court ruling, Howerton will soon be released from prison — and he’s one of the first in the state to see resentencing under the new guidelines.

The state’s highest court last year ruled that judges must consider the age of defendants in sentencing. The 5-4 decision is named after Kurtis Monschke, who was 19 in 2003 when he was one of a few white supremacists who killed a homeless man in Tacoma.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that “children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing.” In Washington, the Monschke decision extends that thinking to 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds. It is part of a broader reform movement to give more leniency in sentencing for younger people, whose brains are still developing.

Prosecutor Adam Cornell said Howerton is one of several Snohomish County defendants slated to get reduced sentences in coming months.

Arthur Longworth was sentenced to life without parole just after turning 20 in 1986 for killing Cynthia Nelson, 25. His resentencing is scheduled for February. Prosecutors will request a 45-year sentence for Longworth, court documents show.

And Eric Krueger was 20 when he was an accomplice in the killing of two Marysville men in 1997. His resentencing is scheduled for late March.

People who knew Howerton in prison called him an empathetic man who has grown since the murder and helped them. During his time imprisoned, he has become passionate about music, producing several albums under his own label. He has donated proceeds to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

He has also participated in hundreds of hours of therapy and counseling.

‘Every day I think about my brother’

Head injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident years earlier made Eby vulnerable to being taken advantage of, family members said in court Tuesday. He had just been hired as a barber at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, noted his brother, Larry Carr.

Aaron Howerton in (top, from left) 2001, 2005, 2008 and (bottom) 2012, 2018 and 2021. (Washington State Department of Corrections)

Aaron Howerton in (top, from left) 2001, 2005, 2008 and (bottom) 2012, 2018 and 2021. (Washington State Department of Corrections)

On May 1, 1994, Howerton, Eby and a few friends went to the Apple Blossom Festival in Wenatchee. One of those friends was Timothy Barnes, then 17.

They came back to Snohomish County the same day and Eby bought two pairs of gold earrings for his mother, according to court records. After that, Howerton and Barnes tried to recruit Howerton’s roommate to help them kill Eby, to steal his car as well as other items. The roommate declined. Howerton and Barnes decided to kill Eby anyway. Witnesses told police they’d been planning this for days.

In later police interviews, both Howerton and Barnes said the other man shot Eby, according to court papers.

After the killing, Howerton and Barnes took a few friends out to dinner. During the meal, Howerton reportedly said he was upset about a movie he saw in which someone was shot in the head and burned. Later, Barnes explained that Howerton had to shoot someone in self-defense.

That night, Barnes gave the friends two sets of gold earrings, according to court documents.

Several days later, Barnes, Howerton and a witness returned to the crime scene east of Monroe to burn Eby’s body and his car to destroy evidence.

Howerton was convicted of first-degree murder in 1995 and sentenced to a mandatory term of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Barnes, who was sentenced to over 25 years, was released a couple years ago.

Howerton petitioned for his sentence to be commuted in 2020. Cornell opposed that request and the state Clemency and Pardons Board denied it.

On Tuesday, Cornell pushed for Howerton’s sentence to be revised to 32 years.

Meanwhile, Eby’s family urged the judge to maintain the life sentence.

“Every day I think about my brother, missing him, wanting to hug him, talk to him face-to-face, ask how he’s doing,” Carr said. “I haven’t been able to do any of that, except when I go to his gravesite.”

Noting Howerton appeared to be a “changed man,” Superior Court Judge Anna Alexander sentenced Howerton to 27 years, as requested by defense attorney Jennifer Bartlett.

The defendant has already served that time, meaning he will soon be released. He’ll have to serve three years on probation.

Upon release, Howerton plans to live with family on a Clark County farm.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A Port Angeles police officer cordons off an empty lot in Sequim on Thursday as law enforcement officials investigate an incident in the area. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Man arrested in Sequim, connected to homicide, has Snohomish County ties

A dead woman was found in Bret Allen Kenney’s home, police say. He previously attacked Snohomish County Jail guards.

LOCAL - MOUNTAIN LOOP HIGHWAY
HERALD STAFF PHOTO BY JENNIFER BUCHANAN
PHOTO SHOT 062208
A car makes its way through a winding unpaved section of the Mountain Loop Highway 15 miles outside of Darrington.
14-mile scenic stretch of Mountain Loop Highway opens early

The highway between Granite Falls and Darrington reopened to traffic on Friday due to good weather.

Britney Barber, owner of Everett Improv. Barber performs a shows based on cuttings from The Everett Herald. Photographed in Everett, Washington on May 16, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Cut this paper up and have a laugh at Everett Improv

The troupe’s new recurring “Boozie Newzie” show is based off clippings from The Daily Herald. Meta, dude.

HIdden River Middle School (Monroe School District)
Monroe school employee on leave for ‘racially insensitive language’

The incident took place at Hidden River Middle School. Also, police were investigating racist vandalism found at another school.

Svetlana Kravchenko appears in court for her sentencing Thursday, May 19, 2022, at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett woman gets community service in 2019 fatal hit-and-run

Svetlana Kravchenko was required to stay at the scene after hitting and killing Te Nguyen, 83. Instead, she went home.

A tiny homes program that opened in early July began with each unit claimed and a wait list of 60. Here Patrick Diller, head of community partnerships for Pallet, discusses the Pallet Shelter Pilot Project on June 29, 2021 in Everett. (Katie Hayes / Herald file)
Everett marks $2.7 million in federal funds for homeless housing

With the American Rescue Plan money, the city’s small housing program for unsheltered people could expand to three sites.

WSDOT workers open up the Smokey Point Rest Area on Tuesday, May 17, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Free coffee will be back soon at Smokey Point rest areas

Everett’s Silver Lake rest area for southbound I-5 drivers remains closed while WSDOT works on the facility.

Everett
Pro skateboarding competition coming to Everett in August

Street League Skateboarding’s championship tour will be at Angel of the Winds arena for two days.

Drivers heading north on Interstate 5 will take a detour from Highway 104 to 220th Street SW and back to I-5 this weekend during nightly lane closures for Sound Transit light rail work. (Sound Transit)
Light rail work closing I-5 North lanes nightly this weekend

Crews need to close northbound lanes between 220th Street SW and Highway 104. Drivers have two detour options.

Most Read